A wild AFC North matchup on Monday night resulted in the Pittsburgh Steelers pulling off a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat the Cleveland Browns, 26-22.
The big turning point of the game came in the fourth quarter when Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith, who already had a pick-six on the first play from scrimmage in this game, got through the Browns’ offensive line and forced the ball out of Deshaun Watson’s hand.
With the ball on the ground, T.J. Watt, who set the Steelers all-time sacks record in the second quarter at 81.5, scooped up the loose ball and ran it into the end zone to flip the momentum back to Pittsburgh. It was his first career touchdown, and it couldn’t have come at a better time as the score moved to 26-22 in the fourth quarter.
The Browns were able to get a big stop later on 3rd-and-1 to force a punt from the Steelers, giving Cleveland over two minutes to drive down the field in comeback fashion. But Watson didn’t have the late-game magic to bring Cleveland to its first 2-0 start since 1993.
Watson completed a few passes, but wasn’t able to find Donovan Peoples-Jones on fourth down near midfield, ending the game in favor of the Steelers.
It’s Pittsburgh’s first win of the season after falling to the San Francisco 49ers last week, while Cleveland falls to 1-1.
This back-and-forth battle got off to a wacky start at the first play from scrimmage, when Watson threw a pass to tight end Harrison Bryant that bounced around before Highsmith plucked it from the air and ran it back 30 yards for a pick-six. The Acrisure Stadium crowd erupted as the home team got out to a 7-0 lead.
But the Steelers’ first offensive drive of the game didn’t go so well either. Second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett threw a pass intended for George Pickens right into the hands of Grant Delpit.
The turnover party wasn’t over in the first quarter, though, as Watson fumbled, and then Gunner Olszewski did the same on the first play of the ensuing drive.
Watson used that second chance to finally get into the end zone, but one of the Browns’ key players suffered a gruesome injury. Running back Nick Chubb, who was having a great half, was hit in the left knee by safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who also suffered a chest injury on the play.
Fitzpatrick’s impact on the leg of Chubb caused his knee to bend back awkwardly, and Chubb was in immediate pain. The injury was so bad that the ESPN broadcast refused to show the replay, and with the play going viral on social media, there was a good reason why that was the case.
Chubb was carted off the field, and his face said all that was needed to show how serious the injury could be for the veteran running back. He finished the game with 10 carries for 64 yards.
His backup, Jerome Ford, was able to punch in his first career touchdown, rushing three yards for the score to take a 9-7 lead.
The Steelers were able to force a couple of punts from the Browns, and after a field goal make it 11-10, Pickett was able to find Pickens on a slant route and the electric wide receiver used his speed to take it to the house for a 71-yard touchdown.
Pickens finished the game with a game-high 127 yards on just four catches, though Pickett did target him 10 times.
While the Steelers tallied the victory, offense needs to be addressed quickly as Pickett once again struggled. He was just 15 of 30 through the air with one touchdown and his interception. The run game also struggled with Najee Harris rushing for just 43 yards on 10 carries.
For the Browns, there’s no sugarcoating how much of a loss Chubb would be, but Ford did well with his chance in the offense. He had 106 yards rushing on 16 attempts to lead the team. Amari Cooper also finished with a team-high 90 receiving yards.
The Browns return home next week to host the Tennessee Titans, who are in search of their first win of the year. The Steelers finally hit the road to face the Las Vegas Raiders in Sin City next Sunday night.